Steerpike

Coming soon: red wall by-election

Coming soon: red wall by-election
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Things are not going well for Labour’s Keir Starmer. After yesterday’s polling showed his first negative satisfaction ratings and a seven point Conservative lead, today brings news that Hartlepool MP Mike Hill has resigned from the Commons to trigger a by election deep in red wall territory. Given the suspension of last May's mayoral and local elections, this will be the first time Boris Johnson's popularity will be tested with the northern voters who gave him his majority in December 2019.

While the timing of the contest is yet to be set, CCHQ will be licking their lips at Hill’s 3,595 majority. Ladbrokes have the party as odds-on favourites to win the Hartlepool by-election with Labour on 13/8 and Reform 33/1. One Tory MP told Mr S: 'The only way we'll lose this by-election is if Ben Houchen decides to stand for Labour.'

Labour’s vote plummeted by nearly 15 per cent in the last election and it was only the involvement of Richard Tice as the Brexit party’s candidate that stopped Hartlepool from going blue. Tice gained some 10,603 votes or 26 per cent of ballots cast, coming in third behind the Conservatives on 29 per cent and Labour on 38 per cent.

All eyes now turn to the Brexit party’s successor outfit Reform UK to see if they will stand again. Sources close to its leader Richard Tice have said it is ‘under active consideration’ about whether Reform will field a candidate here but that it is likely he will personally be standing for the London Assembly in May.

Hartlepool was of course was Peter Mandelson's seat, where in 1997 he enjoyed a mammoth majority of 17,508. Famously after being re-elected four years later he roared on the election platform that 'I am a fighter and not a quitter.'

Will the same be said of Keir Starmer come polling day?

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to steerpike@spectator.co.uk.

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